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MONROVIA/FREETOWN (Reuters) – Australia became the first developed country on Tuesday to shut its borders to citizens of the countries worst-hit by the West African Ebola outbreak, a move those states said stigmatized healthy people and would make it harder to fight the disease.

Australia’s ban on visas for citizens of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea followed decisions by the U.S. military to quarantine soldiers returning from an Ebola response mission and some U.S. states to isolate aid workers. The United Nations said such measures could discourage vital relief work, making it harder to stop the spread of the deadly virus.

“Anything that will dissuade foreign trained personnel from coming here to West Africa and joining us on the frontline to fight the fight would be very, very unfortunate,” Anthony Banbury, head of the U.N. Ebola Emergency Response Mission (UNMEER), told Reuters in the Ghanaian capital Accra.

Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf urged Australia to reconsider its travel ban.

“Anytime there’s stigmatization, there’s quarantine, there’s exclusion of people, many of whom are just normal, then those of us who are fighting this epidemic, when we face that, we get very sad,” she told a news conference.

Written by Michelle Nichols and Umaru Fofana
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